Flappy Bird is the Future of Mobile Gaming

Okay okay, just hear me out here. Let’s get the obvious and most irritating out of the way: Flappy Birds is bogus as hell for ripping off Super Mario graphics. Not only does Flappy itself look like a Cheep Cheep with birth defects, but those pipes though! It’s not as if giant shiny green pipes are just a thing. They’re not a thing. When did you ever see giant shiny green pipes just jutting out of the ground or inexplicably hanging down from the heavens like surreal sewerage stalactites? That’s Mario, man. They’re an iconic feature of the Super Mario franchise—absolutely synonymous with Nintendo’s mascot character. The lazy repeating cityscape clusters in the background, I can forgive, but damn, those pipes. Flappy Bird is blatant plagiarism to be sure, and that’s just one reason this game exemplifies the future of its medium. Kids love plagiarism. Increasingly, the next generation of games is playing rip-off Flash fan games, emulators, and hacks. The line seems to be blurring between fan projects and what’s official in the minds of younger gamers.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the gameplay and why it’s basically perfect. You tap the screen. That’s it. You just tap it. This is the best control scheme ever for a smartphone game. I’m serious. There’s no sliding. No gestures. No on-screen d-pad. You tap it, and it works, and anyone can understand it immediately. It’s a mobile game. It’s not supposed to be a real video game, it doesn’t try to be, and it shouldn’t.

The level of difficulty is infuriating. This is where it shines. This makes Flappy Bird addictive. It has the exact, perfect difficulty. It’s hard, but just within reach. Sure, the hit detection around the pipes is a little off at the corners, but it’s consistent and learnable. You want to try again just one more time. Just one more time. Once more. Okay, next time is it, I swear. Gah! This fucking bird! I hate it! … Right? That’s you, isn’t it?

Through this perfect difficulty balance and minimalist gameplay, Flappy Bird has taken one of the earliest concepts of video gaming—one that has pretty much gone extinct as a core element of gameplay—and made it relevant again: top score. You actually care about your Flappy Bird score. You show your friends. You talk about it. You try to beat your own top score, and you sure as hell want to beat your friends’ top scores. It’s multiplayer without the multiplayer, and it’s genius.

Flap on Flappy. You’ll be forgotten in a matter of months, but that only further supports my point that Flappy Bird is the perfect exemplar of today’s ADD gaming landscape. Meanwhile, I’m gonna go play Bravely Default on my 3DS.

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